tv Representative John Conyers 50 Years in Congress CSPAN January 24, 2015 9:00pm-9:53pm EST
his 26th term. conyers was one of the founding members of the congressional black caucus and the first member to introduce a bill to make martin luther king, jr.'s earth day a federal holiday. the institute for policy studies hosted this 50-minute event. >> welcome to this historic evening to celebrate the first congressman to serve in congress for over 50 years, congressman john conyers. [applause] we thank c-span for being here so hundreds of thousands if not millions more across the country can share in this celebration. i am john cabana -- john cavanagh, director of the institute for policy studies. my colleague and i will be your moderators for tonight.
we had the honor to introduce a few people who will make some remarks to celebrate congressman conyers. first, as a tribute to congressman conyers and the way he works the way he builds strong coalitions to fight for what is right in this country there are 19 other groups that have joined i.p.s. and honoring congressman conyers here tonight. i mention them as among the hundreds of groups that have worked with the congressman over the year, that have partnered with this man for this half century. let me mention the 19. the naacp, the sentencing project, the nation, now celebrating its 150th anniversary, that is pre-john conyers for "the nation." peace action, national
people's action, jobs with justice, friends of the earth. social security works. campaign for america's future. progressive democrats of america, council for a livable world, alliance for justice fund for constitutional government, wi without warn, economic policy institute, and the center for economic and policy research. [applause] it is wonderful to work with these groups. many of their leaders are here tonight. we also loot you, congressman conyers -- we all salute you, congressman conyers. i want to thank the owner of eatonville a leader in many fights championed by congressman conyers, for opening his restaurant to us tonight. we have many more people who wanted to be here.
we had to cut off the list because so many people wanted to celebrate congressman conyers. you will hear more about this man's extraordinary, schmitz tonight. we put -- extraordinary accomplishments tonight. we put a one-page summary in front of you. to put this milestone in perspective, in the history of the united states, only six others have served in congress for 50 years. i have little doubt that nine years and 18 days from now, this is an invitation, on january 25 2024 we will be gathered here once again as congressman conyers sets the record of 59 years and 22 days, surpassing the man he came to work for here in washington first, congressman john dingell, who has just retired.
put that in your calendars. that is the date. the first tribute comes from the codirector of the campaign for america's future. he is a former i.p.s. director. bob is out of the country. i'm going to read two paragraphs from his tribute which i will then give to collison conyers. this is from bob. "consider this, representative conyers has been elected reelected 25 times in a series of male fighters with his lowest winning percentage dropping to 77%. even in the worst years, three out of four of his constituents wanted him back here championing their interests. consider this as well. representative conyers was the leading proponent and organizing force in making dr. martin luther king's earth day a national holiday -- birthday a
national holiday. [applause] this is bob saying this. at the time as a young radical at i.p.s. i thought this quaint at best. now i realize what an achievement it was. each year across america, every family and child in school pay tribute to extraordinary movement leader. an african american who never held office, never amassed a fortune, never picked up a gun but roused people to march in the streets was arrested and harassed for his beliefs, and transformed the country. the king holiday was and is a brilliant, enduring contribution to making america better. he ends it is an incredible achievement we will celebrate next week. john conyers of movement
leader, a savvy legislator, a smart politician, a pragmatic visionary dedicated to making america better. let us celebrate john conyers his life, "ain't been no crystal stair" but he surely has climbed it to the very top. karen and i will turn to several distinguished guests some of you have met on your way in to offer brief tributes to congressman conyers. we will end up by giving congressman conyers the floor to say a few words of his own. since we have such a distinguished lineup, we are asking you each to try to keep your remarks to about four minutes or less if you want. karen will give you a gentle reminder if you go over. to start with, i want to call forward to the microphone civil rights leader, now professor
julian bond. [applause] julian bond was born on january 14 1940, in nashville. he does not want all this. i invited him to dartmouth college in the early 1970's and he came and raised hell. i want to say he has been a leader in so many different ways, both of the southern poverty law center and for many years the board chair of the naacp, and we are honored to have you with us tonight. julian bond. >> thank you. thank you a great deal. it is a great pleasure to be here tonight. it is a tremendous pleasure to appear at an event celebrating john conyers. i first met john conyers when i campaigned for him and what i think was his first campaign for congress of the united states. we walked up and down streets in detroit shaking hands, kissing babies doing all the things you do.
of course, he won that election and every election since then, as you have heard. he won them by amazing margins almost as large as the margins of steve cohen in his district in memphis. it is a great pleasure to be associated with john conyers and be back here again. i was trying to write down the things that have happened in the 50 years since he entered congress and things which might happen in the 50 years we have yet to see him serve. [laughter] when he was elected to congress, there was no voting rights act. had it not been for his efforts there would not be a voting rights act now. [applause] and of course, his efforts now he is doing his best to make sure the voting rights act is put together once again and once again we will have these
protections americans need so badly to enable them to go to the polls and vote. 50 years ago, there was no civil rights act. john conyers helped to shepherd that through the congress to make it possible. i could go down a long list of achievements he has helped to create bills he has helped to pass. i have to mention his continuing appeal to the congress of the united states to pass reparations. [applause] the number supporting reparations are relatively small now, but they are larger than last year or will be larger this year than last year. they were larger last year than the year before. there were large of year before the year before that. he's going to be around long enough to make sure he is there when they are signed into law by president who and whenever -- whomever it happens to be. when i was talking to the people arranging this and they said
maybe five minutes, i said what about four minutes. i wish i had said three minutes. i have so much to say about congressman conyers. he is a wonderful person, a wonderful servant. a wonderful man who represents what we all hope our congressman would be and should be. it is my great pleasure to say hello to him thank you for what you have done. keep it up. i know you will keep it up forever if you just. thank you, thank you, thank you. [applause] >> thank you so much julian bond. next i'm going to call to the microphone at our favorite members of congress and a favorite number of the other 19 groups.
like many of the other she will meet, and organizer before she was a congresswoman and an organizer as a congresswoman. she has made a top priority with congressman conyers winning affordable health care for all americans. she has been a huge champion of worker rights across this country. we had the wonderful privilege with several of the people here, to travel through poor parts of the united states with congress and conyers, danny glover, representative should cascade to lift up the economic rights of ordinary people in this country. there is no greater champion i can think of than our next person. please welcome jan schakowsky. [applause] >> i am so honored to be a long those of you in this room who love john, to be able to be here
to just say a few loving words about him. when i was first elected to congress that was in 1999 that i arrived here, a lot of friends would say, what is the most surprising thing that has happened to you that you have experienced in congress? i said to them i have the privilege of serving with heroes who have changed this country in such fundamental ways. the remarkable thing is a passion they still have for the work ahead, for the jobs they do. first on that list was the great john conyers. i still feel that, john, every day, the honor of being able to serve with you knowing the great history.
i just want to say that you can read his biography. you can go to wikipedia. but i want to mention what a tiger and champion he is right now in the congress. it is one thing to be there in 1965. frankly, i am jealous. that must have been a time when almost every day there was the passage of transformative legislation that has shaped our country even today. it is not so easy now to have that kind of dedication and passion. many of us have seen john has been a fighter when it comes to the government surveillance and leading legislation to put limits on government surveillance of all americans. john was the leader on health care for so long and still is. single-payer?
that is john conyers. [applause] h.r. 676. we have been fighting for that. i still think we are heading in the right direction. john is now the ranking member and hopefully we are still going to see him as the chairman once again of the judiciary committee, will be leading us. this is day two of wonderful honors for john conyers. some of you were in the room yesterday when this magnificent portrait of john conyers as former chairman of the judiciary committee was unveiled. a portrait that will now hang in the judiciary committee for generations to come to see him. that we are not ready for that. we have john right now. we are pushing forward as progressives.
i think with john in the lead, we are going to make progress on voting rights, on civil rights, on human rights. that we are going to pass an economic agenda, maybe not this cycle, but next cycle that we are all going to be proud of that will raise the wages of ordinary americans put us back to work, and building middle-class with organized labor in the lead. i am thrilled and honored and kind of overwhelmed i have the privilege to stand before all of you. i know i am in the right room. when i saw the list of organizations, that is our progressive movement. you are our progressive movement. be optimistic. john is still here fighting. you can continue fighting. he has been doing it for some 50 years. you have a few more years to go. let's do it together. thank you, john. [applause]
>> thank you so much, congresswoman should cascade -- shakowsky. now i have the pleasure to introduce another hero of mine. this activist, actor, he wrote -- hero traveled the country with congresswoman shakowsky, john conyers, and myself with the economic bus tours in the 1990's. moviegoers will know him from countless films from "color purple" to the "lethal weapon" series. the world knows him for his passion and activism. a native californian danny was born in san francisco, the son
of james and kerry glover. he has been a leader in civil rights issues and most recently in the successful effort to free the cuban five. [applause] and to normalize relations with cuba. please welcome to the stage mr. danny glover. [applause] >> this is not a roast. [laughter] i was just thinking about how part of the family lore is that when my father was released from the army in san francisco at the end of world war ii, he says, c ome on, carrie, my mother, we
are going back to detroit. i have a job waiting in detroit. another said you better find a job here. we are going nowhere. this is god's country, san francisco. that is why i was born in san francisco. but this might have been my congressman, really. imagine in 1965. but i am thinking about all the things we talk about. certainly, we have an opportunity here. irvin jim, the secretary-general of south africa, some dynamic young men and women bringing new leadership to south africa. i know they will be at jon hn's and you will have opend armsoor -- have open arms
because he is always bringing people together. we know car has taken a strong stand. others have taken a strong stand on reparations. john is there. whenever you talk about reparations, john was there talking about it and it is resonating brazil -- in brazil and everywhere in the latin american community the idea of reparations and everything. not only about the -- connelly that -- not only that. we talk about surveillance. john was right there particularly when it came to zambia. john was right there knocking on the door. continued to unveil the lies and bringing truth to power. thank you, john.
[applause] >> before i introduce the next speaker, i want to to say something danny just introduced. the person who came the furthest tonight to be here at this event is the leader of south africa's biggest and most militant metalworkers federation, irvin jim. i would like irvin to stand and be recognized for his work. [applause] i would like to invite you all tomorrow evening, danny glover and irvin jim will lead a conversation about contemporary issues in south africa and the dynamic movements emerging and the new leaders, so please come.
now it is my pleasure to bring up here, i was going to say congressman conyers' oldest friend in this year until julian bond told his story. but i want to invite up mark raskin. mark raskin and dick bove it cofounded the institute for policy studies in 1963 as a think tank designed to speak truth to power. prior to founding i.p.s., mark worked as a special staffer to president kennedy. cofounded i.p.s. one year before congressman conyers was elected to they have worked together and then dear friends ever since. one other piece i want to say about mark and commerce in conyers --, as in conyers, you have heard about his right on civil rights, reparation, and
health care, congressman conyers has been a leader of the out of iraq caucus, out of afghanistan caucus, going back to the out of vietnam caucus. we salute that, the diversity of his issues and pioneering work. please welcome the i.p.s. cofounder mark raskin. [applause] >> thank you. it is wonderful to be here with you. i just have a few words. there are so many memories i could share about our dear friend, john conyers. recall call of you, i have been inspired by his work to end illegal wars and on behalf of the poor and it pressed.
there is only one thing he and i have in common in this room. we are among the only 50 or so living memories of nixon's [indiscernible] nixon was totally correct is seeing john as a threat. [laughter] he was a veteran of the korean war who became a prominent critic of the vietnam war. he went on to not only vote to impeach nixon but over the past 50 years, he has proved to be a very dangerous threat to the forces that want to destroy or undermine our democracy. so i would like to toast my fellow members of nixon's
enemies, a great guardian of democracy, my great friend john conyers, who will be leading all of you in the next 50 years with the wonderful things he was able to accomplish. thank you very much john, our love to you. for all of its passion and all of it's good, thank you. [applause] >> thank you, mark. karen is going to introduce our next speaker. i just realized as he entered the room, there are three members of nixon's enemies list now in the room. karen will tell you more. >> almost on cue of nixon's
enemy list entered congressman charles wrangle. -- rangell. [applause] congressman rundangel is a war herol and history making lawmaker. he made history as the first african american of congress to lead the powerful ways and means committee. he is a leading advocate for it for a full rights and equal opportunity. he has boosted the incomes of millions of americans with the earned income tax credit and pumped billions of dollars into a revitalization of communities across the nation. welcome, mr. rangel. >> thank you. one of the difficulties in getting old, especially when you are 84 is how does it can
celebrate his 50th anniversary? in the congress? another awkward thing is when you are working side by side with someone that you don't really appreciate the courage the work, and the contribution they are making because you see them as part of a bigger force. i never had this difficulty with john conyers because while we were looking at adam clayton powell, looking at the civil rights legislation while we were looking at many sellers i was looking at john conyers. throughout all of this, the person has survived and excelled in the congress, i have never seen john conyers thrgrab a mic.
for those of us in this business, that is hard to understand. he has never been addicted to press conferences. he has never and able to say -- he has never been able to say, why not me and i did the work for that. as we see the legislation passed, including a bill passed when i was chairman of the ways and means long before there was an obama john conyers was pushing for national health insurance and was the leader in this nationally. and of course, i had to show that i was really on the enemies list in order to get on the judiciary committee when i first came down here. [laughter] unlike barbara jordan, i do appreciate the constitution and got in a lot of trouble with people for saying i had a more difficult job than barbara
jordan because while she could eloquently explain why she had the heavy moral and constitutional weight of deciding whether or not the conduct of president nixon reached the point we should pass a bill in terms of impeachment i had the responsibility of doing the same thing knowing he was guilty before he went through all of that. which one was more difficult to do? it was what i had done listening to all of that, waiting for the vote to come. but on a more serious note, history is certainly going to record that when there was an issue our country was concerned with that meant the difference as to whether or not we were going to improve the quality of our constitution, john conyers has always been there. it is my honor not to just
admire him, calling him a friend -- but calling him a friend in all of the years i have been congress have meant so much to me. for those of you who have put this together, you should have done it a long time ago. but i'm glad i am around to join in with those to say thank you john conyers. [applause] >> thank you mr. rangel. i would like to invite the next member of congress to give a tribute to mr. conyers. this is congressman steve: from memphis -- steve cohen from memphis. he has dedicated his life to public service.
as a child, the challenges of living with polio taught him how to overcome obstacles through persistence and determination, values which would shake his career as a legislator. thank you so much for joining us, mr. cohen. [applause] >> thank you very much. to mr. conyers mr. "reel america" --mr. rangel and everyone else, it is an honor to be with john conyers on the stage. some people did not know my district when i was elected. my district is one of the greatest districts in america. let me edit that out. my district is the greatest district in america. [laughter] it is 65% african american. in a different kind of primary it is 80% african american.
they have sent me her five times with numbers that are outstanding. but at first, people did not know if they would elect me. then they did not know if they would reelect me. some people thought i was sidney poitier "guess who is coming to congress?" to the district supports me, and i work hard for the district. there were a few members of congress at first that were not so sure, who is this guy? john conyers was not one of the people. from day one, john conyers has been a friend, mentor, and ally. there was no question of the color of my skin. it was where my heart and issues where. he welcomed me to congress. he has been my leader and mentor ever since. i was proud and my first term to have passed an apology for slavery and jim crow. but i could not have passed that without john conyers. he put it on the agenda. it needed the chairman to put it up.
he got it on the committee on the suspension calendar. we passed it, it became law. you went through the house, we passed a resolution. the was important and it would not have happened without john conyers. john conyers is a marvelous human being. in my first four years in congress, we were in the majority. he was our chair. judiciary committee gets an unusual combination of people, he gets people from the extremes. on the democratic side, it just the rational, good, decent human beings. on the republican side -- they are out there. [laughter] and yet john conyers as chairman was nice to everybody. he had steve king, jim jordan. guenther gebel williams had an easier time, it you always kept
her cool and were a gentleman. . . you have always been a way to everyone in congress. it is a testament to your character that even when people take different positions, you give them the opportunity to speak and treat them well. i thank you for being a mentor to me and treating me well. jan schakowsky said he is a tiger. is a detroit tiger and detroit lion. and he is a newt and he wore his jacket to memphis to the civil rights museum. people appreciated coming. i appreciate you coming. when i have a question about a vote and i am not sure, i look and see how john conyers voted and then i know how to vote. thank you for your service to the country and your friendship to me. [applause] >> thank you so much congressman cohen.
we have been joined by congressman alan grayson of florida. congressman grayson has served florida's ninth district in the house of representatives since january 2013, a tireless advocate of campaign finance, fiscal responsibility, and reducing economic equality. congressman grayson was called the most effective member of the house by "late" magazine in 2013. welcome, congressman grayson. [applause] >> no? sorry i am late, everybody. steve said not long ago he was david duke without the baggage.
i'm late because i was filling out a lost baggage claim for steve scalise. i would like to say a few words about john conyers. before i do that, i want to technology our special guest danny glover. thank you for coming. denny was a teenager when john conyers was elected to congress, believe it or not. how you have grown. [laughter] danny, like julius caesar overcame epilepsy to go on to become the ruler of the known world. i am referring to the movie "2012." no john -- now john was and is the last remaining member of the judiciary committee to vote to
impeach richard nixon, an excellent vote if i may say. i heard someone say when i was a young boy you won't have richard nixon to kick around anymore. but here it is, we are still doing it. [laughter] john was on richard nixon's enemies list, number 13. i would like to think if i was in office back then, i would have been number 12. as nixon's general counsel put it you were a rising figure. here you are, all this time later, still rising. thank you for your contributions to america. thank you for that vote and so many other important votes and ideas and policies that you have
helped to promote through the years. i rise and toast you. john conyers, and every enemy of richard nixon, thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you, congressman grayson. we may have another member or two trickling in through the cold. one member of congress who was not able to be here tonight and sent her remarks asking to be read to you this to conyers, is barbara lee. congressman barbara lee sent this message. "to my progressive brothers and sisters, i am very sorry i could not join you today to celebrate the legacy of my friend, a true progressive hero and a role model to so many in congress, congressman john conyers.
but i did want to share a few thoughts about my dear friend. yesterday, i had the privilege of attending congressman conyers' portrait unveiling in the judiciary committee room along with vice president joe biden. believe it or not, congressman conyers has now become the dean of the u.s. house of representatives having served 50 years. [applause] he is the first african american of only one of only seven other members to have served their nation for more than five decades. are from taking it easy, which is something he has more than earned congress and conyers is still leading the charge for american families, not only as ranking member on the judiciary but also as the founding member -- a founding member of the congressional black caucus and
our true progressive champion in the progressive caucus and house. we all know congressman conyers stands for justice and issues a strong clarion call for social justice, economic justice, and criminal justice reform. over his 50 years in the house congressman conyers has had many victories and achieved many things. and for that he deserves our heartfelt gratitude. but the amazing thing about congressman conyers is his work is not yet done. [applause] >> congressman conyers, you are next. before we bring you up to read i did want to note one thing. for those of you who don't know congressman conyers and the many people watching this on c-span or listening on pacifica, about this man, we have been talking
about his big vision, his big ideas. for me and us at i.p.s. and the other groups, who else would come to a seminar for two hours and stay for another two hours to talk about ideas? but at the same time, this is a man who has achieved a great deal through legislation. people have mentioned the martin luther king act. but i wanted to mention four other things that are law because of john conyers and some of the other members of congress you have just heard from. the jazz preservation act of 1987. [applause] the motor voter bill of 1993. [applause] and some of you who don't know these, google these. they have major life better. they have made a stronger demarche -- democracy. the violence against women act of 1994. [applause] and the help america vote act of
2002. [applause] one other thing i want to say is this is a year where many of us have lost some of our greatest champions in the congress with the retirement of george miller and tom harkin, after 40 years, extraordinary careers. to have the people you just heard from and have john conyers committed despite a republican house and senate, he is dedicated. he will stay here. he will be here. i don't go if you do years, but he will be here for the anniversary in nine years and 22 days and it makes us all breathe easier. we in the nonprofit and social movement world we know it is a combination of heat from the streets and smart legislating from congress that will change this country. we are deeply honored and moved
and thankful for what you have done. we would like to ask you to come up and say little bit. congressman conyers. congressman john conyers. [applause] >> [indiscernible] brothers and sisters let's give john cavanagh and karen dolan a round of applause for tonight to start off with. [applause] nothing could make me feel better than to have danny glover, steve cohen, jan schakowsky charlie rangel, julian bond, alan grayson marcus raskin, and barbara lee
sending a note here with us tonight. what a gathering of all of the people in the struggle to make this country and the world a better place. now i have been influenced by the one man that shaped my conduct in so many ways, martin luther king, jr. jobs justice and i am talking about political justice and economic justice and then finally, peace. jobs, justice, and peace. it is not hard to put a
philosophy of that kind into political action. and guess what? we are making progress. there is only one problem. thanks to digital computers technology websites,, the world is getting to be a more dangerous place. it is not a matter of whether you are willing to go to jail or take a beating or get talked about or anything else. what we are saying here tonight honors me beyond words. what we are doing here is something i have loved. one person i was sorry could not be with us tonight is harry
belafonte, who came and worked with me in the very beginning. but you know, among all the travails, of the tears -- all the tears, all the doubt, this has been the most marvelous participation in my lifetime to be in the house of representatives, to serve and make the laws and policies for this great nation that we are in. this is just the beginning. we were talking today in my office.
i am so glad to see joe siegel and cynthia martin and others that have poured with me -- that have worked with me. we were talking about why is it we have so many people that are with us, and yet we have so much struggle and if we are not careful we will be moving back. there trying to undo the voter rights act. they are trying to make it more difficult to participate in the democratic process after all we have been through. and yet this has to be examined on its face. it is because, i think, the messaging part has been slack.
we have got to give obama the push he requires for us to get more done these last couple of years. we've got to even say to all of our liberal and progressive friends, "we have got to do more." we've got to be able to describe what it is we are trying to do and why the simple process of going to the voting booth on a tuesday every now and then and choosing of your own will will will govern you -- will govern you, something evnnvied around
the globe, is so difficult. i know you are ok, rangel, but i will think about it. i will be working with many of you and scholars to see what it is we have to do to get people to understand that it is so simple to take your pen out and mark your mark. we need all the help we can get from everybody that deserves it. we are not talking about upper-class and all of that. we are talking about people who
are worried about where their next job is coming from or whether their job will last or whether they can even get a job or if they can get trained for a job. if they can be educated to a sufficient point where they can participate in this. we here stand as progressives at the edge of this confrontation, and so we have got to push everybody from the president on down. we've got to encourage everybody from the bottom up. it is in that spirit that i join you all. i want to toast you. i want to tell you how important
it is to me to be with you tonight. believe me, i have enjoyed what i am doing. my health is good. my mind is still to be found most of the time. the struggle goes on. this little fellow here, carl edward conyers standup. 19 years old, my son. i am so proud of him, university of houston. we are going to make this place better. nine years and 22 days from now let's get back together again. what do you say? [applause] thank you so much. love you all.
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